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Things You May Not Know About Converse Footwear

Updated on March 11, 2014

What does an old rock n roller, an admirer of Kurt Cobain and a 2014 fashion conscious dresser all have in common?

Odds on they’ve all laid eyes on the legendary Converse design.

For over 100 years the Converse brand has been producing footwear, and like anything that boasts this impressive lifespan there are sure to be stories and achievements unknown by many.

Did you know? / Earliest Connection With Music

Other than producing iconic music The Clash, Ramones and Nirvana all have things in common, and that is they loved to wear Converse. Yet the Converse connection to music started a lot earlier than the rock n roll, punk or grunge music flurry.

In the 20s Converse became a prominent brand within basketball; this was helped by the Converse All Stars range, a comfortable, flexible and non-slip choice of shoe for aspiring basketball players. The All Stars were developed by founding Converse owner Marquiz Mills as well as acquired trainee Chuck Taylor whose name is now credited for the classic design.

Although basketball was formally invented before the 1900s, in 1920s America basketball started to bubble away as a newly invigorated activity and it was here where it truly created the early fabrications to what is now a massively celebrated sport worldwide. At the exact same time Converse also began flourishing with those playing basketball believing Converse shoes would lead to a better performance. The increase in basketball’s popularity saw more and more people getting involved in the action.

Basketball teams would compete in music halls rather than the traditional gym set up of modern times. It was here where Converse shoes first struck a chord with music. After a hard-fought game on the music hall floor the team’s friends and family would celebrate the game by dancing. Music would be played for hours after games had finished and this is where Converse designs saw their first glimpse of partying with music.

Players Stretching & Piano Playing
Players Stretching & Piano Playing | Source

Did you know? / Chuck Taylor

Other than having a helping hand in the creation of Converse’s most popular range the All Stars, Chuck Taylor continued to improve other common features within basketball. In the mid 30s Chuck Taylor pioneered the first stitchless leather basketball.

Before the stitchless design many Spalding balls were manufactured with lace ups on the outside, this often left opportunity for erratic bouncing off the surface, thus concealed laces were brought in as well as redesigning the balls for more bounce. The iconic ambassador for Converse had now invented an upgraded basketball as well.

Evolution Of Basketballs
Evolution Of Basketballs

Did you know? / 1936 Olympic Games

With basketball at the forefront of new American sports the Olympics repaid baskteball's dominance by introducing the sport as an official event in the 1936 Olympics. With basketball, came Converse, and this newly launched event saw the entire US team wearing Converse Chuck Taylors to defeat Canada 19-8 in the final to win gold.

US vs Canada Final 1936 Olympics
US vs Canada Final 1936 Olympics

Did you know? / Converse In War

You can forget basketball for now because in the 1940s Converse footwear tailored their trade towards a much more serious cause. With World War II vibrating across the globe Converse concentrated on supplying the US Army with revised footwear for combat. The US Air Force was introduced to the A6 Flying Boot made by Converse; it offered a robust and more resistant model to their existing footwear and was implemented across the ranks of the US Air Force.

Converse shoes were also seen on ground level with many soldiers wearing Chuck Taylor All Stars to train in. They provided a certain amount of comfort, a lightweight ability yet rubber resistance, not to mention the patriotic connotations of wearing Converse.

A6 Flying Boots
A6 Flying Boots | Source

Did you know? / Converse Relationship With Rebellion

Some may think back to the punk rock eras of the Ramones to truly portray Converse shoes connection with rebellion but it actually started with a Hollywood actor. With the US face-planting into a brand new breed of consumerism in the 50s, Chuck Taylor hi-tops were becoming the most desirable shoes for rockabilly styles.

Iconic outspoken pin up James Dean famously helped the brands bearing when he was photographed wearing a T-shirt, blue Levi’s and white Converse sneakers. It was around this period that the fractious, rebellious and anarchist image of Converse was born.

James Dean Wearing Converse
James Dean Wearing Converse

Did you know? / 1984 Olympic Games

Although Converse became adopted by Punks and Rock n Rollers they were still a formidable force within performance sports. What better way for the brand to gain accolades than by being announced as the official sponsor of the 1984 Olympics. It wasn’t just this monumental sponsorship which helped celebrate the brand, the history books also highlighted Converse as an important fixture. Converse now appeared in every final medal round at every Olympic Games since 1936.

Did you know? / Converse Engineering

Athletes were also seeking footwear to enhance their performance on the track. With bio-mechanics reaching a pivotal point and Converse determined to extend their longevity the brand released the industry’s first high-tech mid-sole cushioning system. Energy rebound technology and motion control devices influenced another Converse basketball shoe which would make a name for itself ‘The Weapon’.

Converse Weapon
Converse Weapon | Source

Did you know? / Converse Sales

  • By 1966 Converse had an 80 percent share of the US sneaker market.
  • In 2002 Converse released information that they had sold 750 million pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, recorded across 144 countries since their launch in 1923.
  • At their peak Converse manufactured approximately 500 versions of the Chuck Taylor design.
  • In 2012 Converse sold $450 million in Chuck Taylor All Stars……. that’s one pair every 43 seconds!

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    • profile image

      Stefanie K. 2 years ago

      Thank you for this interesting article. I am writing my final exam at University about Converse and i found many helpful information. But i have one question left: Do you know, if it is possible to get this awesome boxes (they are in your first Picture with "The Converse Archive" Slogan) somewhere? I know they might be very old, but it would be so great to have such a box for my final exam presentation!! I would be very thankful, if you have some more Information about it!

      Greetings, Steffi

    • Paul Fisher profile image
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      Paul Fisher 3 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you very much theeyeballkid!

    • Theeyeballkid profile image

      Theeyeballkid 3 years ago

      Surprisingly fascinating article!